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Plant J. 2009 Feb;57(4):690-705. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03722.x. Epub 2008 Oct 16.

A molecular and structural characterization of senescing Arabidopsis siliques and comparison of transcriptional profiles with senescing petals and leaves.

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  • 1School of Food Biosciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 226, Reading RG6 6AP, UK.


Senescence of plant organs is a genetically controlled process that regulates cell death to facilitate nutrient recovery and recycling, and frequently precedes, or is concomitant with, ripening of reproductive structures. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the seeds are contained within a silique, which is itself a photosynthetic organ in the early stages of development and undergoes a programme of senescence prior to dehiscence. A transcriptional analysis of the silique wall was undertaken to identify changes in gene expression during senescence and to correlate these events with ultrastructural changes. The study revealed that the most highly up-regulated genes in senescing silique wall tissues encoded seed storage proteins, and the significance of this finding is discussed. Global transcription profiles of senescing siliques were compared with those from senescing Arabidopsis leaf or petal tissues using microarray datasets and metabolic pathway analysis software (MapMan). In all three tissues, members of NAC and WRKY transcription factor families were up-regulated, but components of the shikimate and cell-wall biosynthetic pathways were down-regulated during senescence. Expression of genes encoding ethylene biosynthesis and action showed more similarity between senescing siliques and petals than between senescing siliques and leaves. Genes involved in autophagy were highly expressed in the late stages of death of all plant tissues studied, but not always during the preceding remobilization phase of senescence. Analyses showed that, during senescence, silique wall tissues exhibited more transcriptional features in common with petals than with leaves. The shared and distinct regulatory events associated with senescence in the three organs are evaluated and discussed.

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